Hair artist and designer Charlie Le Mindu opens up about how rave culture acts as his muse, the years he spent in Berlin, and navigating sustainability in the hair industry.
Although it has given him icon status in fashion, Charlie Le Mindu’s artistry extends beyond the title “hairstylist.” He serves as an artistic director, designer, and costume creator for some of the most prestigious names and establishments worldwide. Le Mindu is the mastermind behind punk electroclash musician Peaches’ hair and was a central figure in creating Lady Gaga’s early looks. More recently, he created the infamous hair bag Julia Fox sported at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscars party.
Sitting with me on Zoom from New York, Le Mindu tells me of his childhood. Bordeaux-born and gypsy traveler raised, his childhood positioned him well for what was to come, “we did travel a lot in a caravan when I was a kid. It influenced me a lot. Different people and communities and different ways of living inspired me. Not being able to be in the same place. That’s why every week I’m in a different city. I’m not able to stay in the same location for more than three years,” he says.
Le Mindu started his training at 13-years-old at the French Hair Academy. A transition from national to international nomad quickly followed. At 15, he moved to Berlin and started work at the Barbie Diner. His foray into the industry has an almost Club Kid feel, “it was a gay place, pretty intense, pretty punk. Monday nights to Friday nights I was there, and Saturday, I was at the Rio, which was Peaches’ Place,” he explains.
Le Mindu’s fanatic love for, and lifelong collaboration with Peaches, was born during this time in Berlin. After they met, the excessive rhythm of Berlin’s nightlife scene grew to affect Le Mindu, “I had to go away from the nightlife because it was getting a bit too much for me. Peaches helped me move to London and got me a place to live, and we started on our collaboration.”
In London, hair became more to Le Mindu than a feature to style, metamorphosing into a material to sculpt. He began building his first collection under his own label, premiering in London in 2009. Looking back, he reveals he would do things differently now, “I did 12 collections. I think it helped me, and it was nice. I would do it a different way now. Maybe that’s why I’m moving to costumes for ballet and for performers. I feel like I can express myself in terms of costumes.”
Le Mindu’s costumes and artworks have been exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries internationally, including the Monte Carlo Ballet and the Pompidou Centre, and will soon be displayed at the Louvre. He sees his lack of formal training as beneficial, “because I haven’t trained, I think I see things differently. Being a designer, I ever trained, being a fashion designer, I never went to a fashion school.”
Le Mindu’s key aesthetic can divide (brutalism is Le Mindu’s most cited period of Art, and he often draws from elements of punk). Today, he looks for beauty where others can’t see it. This is what I do for my inspiration; I travel and will google things like ‘the worst places to visit in X,’ and it’s the same with hair. I’ll google ‘worst hairstyles.’ I get inspired by nature and raving too. In the jungle, it feels like a secret rave. At a rave, it’s like an embrace from your mother”.
Recently, Le Mindu produced a series of sculptural hairpieces, a bear from shredded plastic, and a tapestry made from human hair in an explorative photographic series for Mission’s Sustainability issue, titled ‘Upcylce, Updo.’ “My clients’ hair becomes like sculptures. It was the perfect time for me to put something onto the model’s hair and transfer it into a sculpture. I always reuse stuff. I like reusing things,” he says.
The shoot’s brief prompted the Mission team and its collaborators to think over the topic. Over Zoom, Le Mindu opens up about navigating sustainability in the hair industry. “It’s hard. I use so many hair products that it comes in a plastic bag every time I buy a wig. I would love it if there were a place, even with companies like L’Oreal, where you could go and fill up a bag. A lot could be offered with paper bags, but no one does that. Lots of makeup artists speak about it now. I feel it’s more forward in makeup. They will use cardboard all the time”.
Throughout his career, Le Mindu has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Louis Vuitton, and Balmain. This year will see him push his artwork even further. But for Le Mindu, the circle always loops back to Peaches. “There are just moments that I love, especially with artists. There was this time in London with Peaches. She wanted to go blonde for her tour we were about to start. I had no time to do it. I was thinking about how to make it work, and the only time I could make it work was during a DJ set. She was DJ-ing and started with brown hair. She put a long summer track on, and I applied the product. She did the rest of the set, and the only thing I could wash it off with afterward was champagne, and it worked!”.
Images captured by Richard Burbridge for Mission‘s Sustainability issue, out now.